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Senate Blocks Medicare Funding Bill

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Supporters of a major Medicare program bill today failed to get the votes they needed in the Senate to push the bill to the Senate floor.

Backers of the bill, H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, could round up only 58 votes in favor of limiting debate on the bill.

In the Senate, supporters of a bill need at least 60 votes to prevent the start of a filibuster, or endless round of debate designed to keep a bill from coming up for a vote.

Members of the House voted 355-59 pass H.R. 6331 Tuesday.

The bill would cut Medicare Advantage program funding by about $14 billion over 5 years and impose new restrictions on marketing of Medicare Advantage programs.

The bill would use the Medicare Advantage funding cuts to pay to ward off a 10.6% cut in Medicare physician reimbursement rates that is scheduled to take effect Tuesday.

Senate Finance Committee leaders recently failed to come up with their own Medicare funding bill.

Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid, D-Nev., voted against limiting debate so that he will have the right to later call for reconsidering the vote. He was the only Democrat who voted against limiting debate.

Republicans who sided with the Democrats and voted for limiting debate include Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Earlier today, before the Senate voted on whether to limit debate on H.R. 6331, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Senate Republicans of delaying passage of the bill.

“The House did its work on behalf of seniors by passing the Medicare Improvements bill by a veto-proof margin,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Let me be very clear: because of the House adjournment later today and the legislative process, the House will not consider any further Medicare legislation. The Senate should pass the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act without delay.”

Although the H.R. 6331 passed in the House by a veto-proof margin, members who vote to pass a bill can change their position if a president actually vetoes the bill.

In recent months, for example, members of Congress passed a State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill by what appeared to be a veto-proof majority but were unable to overturn a presidential veto.


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